In 2023, the Steve Shore Community Catalyst award went to
The University of Vermont Extension Bridges to Health Program
The University of Vermont Extension’s Bridges to Health Community Health Worker (CHW) Program is a health outreach program for migrant farmworkers in Vermont. Utilizing a care coordination model carried out by six regional Migrant Health Promoters, the program empowers farmworkers to make timely health decisions.
In addition to offering care coordination to migrant farmworkers in need of health care services, Bridges to Health creates capacity-building opportunities for local health entities to implement linguistically and culturally appropriate services. Their bilingual community health workers assist migrant agricultural workers and accompany workers through the complexity and difficulty of the healthcare system.
They work seamlessly with local health entities to ensure continuity of care, transportation to appointments, language access throughout all points of care, and support with wrap-around services. Due to the skilled accompaniment and support of Bridges to Health’s CHWs, hospitals and health clinics in Vermont have a greater understanding of the unique challenges these workers face and are better equipped with the knowledge of how to help them access care.
Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.
Panella Moten Washington
CEO, Advance Community Health
Penny Washington has a long history of service to North Carolina in the area of public health. From 1988-1996 she worked at the state’s Office of Rural Health, from 1996-1998 she was the Chief Operating Officer of Advance Community Health, and for the last twenty three years she has led that same organization, from 1998-2021 as CEO. In her time at its helm, Advance Community Health has grown in both number of healthcare delivery sites and patients served, now serving over 18,000 North Carolinians.
Staff who have worked with her for many years say things like “She’s a visionary — she cares about the community that she provides the services for.” She “never hesitates to speak up when she sees an issue that affected patients or her community. You can always count on her to be fully present and engaged.”
Other CEOs in the health center world comment on her dedication to the mission and the people she serves, and that she pushes others to be in it for the patient, the community, and the agency. They note that she is foundational in the NC Community Health Center movement, and that a compliment from Penny is hard-won and deeply meaningful.
Dr. Shannon Dowler
CMO, NC Medicaid, NC DHHS
Dr. Shannon Dowler is the CMO for North Carolina Medicaid. However, for most of 2020 she was our key contact at NC DHHS for everything COVID. She hosted weekly fire side chats dedicated to supporting Community Health Center CEOs navigate COVID developments.
Behind the scenes, she and her team have constantly advocated for CHCs as trusted community partners, as great deliverers of COVID vaccines, and as likely recipients of equity doses when those were needed as well. We know that it wasn’t just Dr. Dowler—that her team, including Dr. Abby DeVries—is also constantly working behind the scenes on our behalf. We want to recognize the commitment Dr. Dowler had to not only CHCs and our patients, but the whole state, as she spent a year of 12 hour days sorting out the best way to tackle this pandemic in North Carolina.
CEO, Advance Community Health
Penny Washington has been the CEO of Advance CHC for 24 years and has been at the organization for 26. An avid University of Michigan fan, Penny received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the maize and yellow school in Ann Arbor, and she knew early on that she wanted to go into the administrative side of health care, because a neighborhood mentor who was a doctor told her he wanted to make more impact—through administration.
We are thankful that we had the team at McGuire Woods to advocate on behalf of health centers at the NCGA. Harry Kaplan and Jeff Barnhart ensured that North Carolina community health centers would secure financial support from the state legislature to respond to COVID-19.
Not only that, but when lawmakers passed additional COVID-19 relief legislation, they worked with Harry & Jeff to provide flexibility for allowable expenses and to increase the total financial support to health centers—not once, but twice—from $5 million to nearly $12.5 million. We recognize Harry and Jeff for this major accomplishment and all the hard work, late nights, and long hours that went into securing this support for North Carolina’s community health centers.
Blue Ridge Health
Early in the pandemic, when NCCHCA would gather CHCs together an problem solve, a staff member from Blue Ridge would always have an answer. They were often a little ahead of everyone else when it came to their COVID-19 response. Blue Ridge was able to administer 4,000 vaccines before NCCHCA even had a vaccine contract. Throughout the pandemic, the team at Blue Ridge has demonstrated to all of us what it means to be community first.
Piedmont Health Services
Piedmont Health rose to the challenge of providing COVID-19 testing to the hard hit areas in their community. They partnered with the National Guard to support testing efforts in around the processing plants. They were early registrants into the vaccine registry program, CVMS, as well as into their data entry improvement projects. They answered other CHCs’ questions about those when most of the rest of us were still figuring things out. Brian Toomey has constantly advocated for CHCs’ inclusion as trusted community partners to participate in testing and in vaccination and all stages of response to the pandemic. The team at Piedmont consistently showed up for their patients and was willing to try new things for the sake of their community.
The CommWell Health team has been working with Kanad Hospital of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, since July 2020. The CEO of Kanad, Dr. Timothy Fincher, reached out the CommWell CEO Pamela Trip after reading her book “The Culture Cure: Transforming the Modern Healthcare”.
The book is described as “the essential DNA required to break free of the status quo environment that continues to dominate the American healthcare industry. It begins with the understanding of fundamental organizational core values that lay the foundation for excellence in culture, quality, finance, and governance …”
Kanad Hospital is a state-of-the-art facility with 600 employees on staff and is the largest and only Christian hospital located in the Middle East. The team at CommWell has been coaching and training the staff at Kanad through an eight-hour time difference on Zoom and conference calls.
Charlotte Community Health Clinic
Carolyn Allison (CEO) and her team partnered with Novant for testing then focused on drive-through and mobile chronic care management. Charlotte CHC thought that if they could manage folks’ chronic conditions, which is what CHCs do really well all the time, and partner for testing, more needs could be met and people would be best prepared to handle any illnesses that came their way including COVID19. This innovative use of telehealth and at home monitoring devices is a great and sustainable innovative use of the technologies available post pandemic.
Kintegra sent community health workers door to door to help with vaccine outreach. Their work reaching out to historically marginalized populations, was recognized at the state level. Kintegra’s vaccine coordinator, Reva Holland, has been a model of reporting timelines and information sharing with others.
Goshen was able to host over 300 mobile COVID testing sites. In addition to their great partnerships with local schools, churches, Health Departments, and small businesses.
Rueben Blackwell’s advocacy at the state level for diversity and inclusion with vaccine access, benefited all CHC’s. He pushed decision makers to consider the effects of speed on historically marginalized populations. The team at OIC played a huge rule in outreach and persuasion of patients to get vaccines.
Rural Health Group
Rural Health Group advocated on behalf of marginalized populations getting their fair share of vaccine doses. They were an early advocate for a balance between the state and federal vaccine allocation. The team at Rural Health managed to reach historically marginalized population in a wide swath of North Carolina. Yvonne Long-Gee advocated for better equity in distribution, which benefited all health centers as vaccine supply increased.
Green County Health Care
Greene County was able to COVID test thousands of people in their community. They partnered with farmers and farmworkers to help with better access to testing sites. Their farmworker outreach has also worked with farmers and farmworkers to support vaccination efforts.
The Carolina Family team was a strong voice for coordination and support across providers, to work together in order to prevent duplication efforts, ensuring that farmworkers could receive vaccines. The team also had a strong farmworker outreach program to support this vulnerable community in getting COVID testing.
Public Health Director, AppHealth Care
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